Bring out the brooms.
Both teams played shorthanded tonight. The Hornets lacked LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and other guys; for the Knicks, Julius Randle will be out for a while with a dislocated shoulder, and OG Anunoby was a late scratch with right elbow inflammation. Hats off to Precious Achiuwa for a strong game, his first as a starting power forward for the Knicks. He logged nine points, five boards, and one block, and finished +21 in 33 minutes.
New York’s best third quarter of the season (44 points!) made the difference tonight. With Jalen Brunson’s 32 total points—the 18th time this season he’s eclipsed 30 points—plus 28 points from Donte DiVincenzo, and 12 rebounds, eight points, and seven assists from Josh Hart, the Villanova boys overcame a barf-scented first half to rip the wings off the Wasps post-intermission.
The Hornets lost their fourth straight while suffering the indignity of having their Spectrum Center crowd chanting for the victorious visitors. New York won their seventh in a row. Final score, 113-92.
The Hornets capitalized on a confused Knicks defense for an early 9-5 lead. Tom Thibodeau called a timeout with barely three minutes gone. New York made only four of their first 12 shots, but Charlotte turned the ball over thrice and allowed the Knicks to tie the score by midway through the period. Hornets Rookie Brandon Miller scored nine points in his first nine minutes, but the hometown crowd was unimpressed. They showed more excitement for Jalen Brunson, whom they serenaded with MVP! chants.
Jalen Brunson getting MVP Chants ON THE ROAD in the 1st quarter— Knicks Memes (@KnicksMemes) January 30, 2024
Your PG could never
Miles Bridges scored six straight for Charlotte late in the quarter, and the Knicks escaped the period ahead, 26-25. Ten early points for Donte DiVincenzo.
Miles McBride kicked off the second frame with an alley oop to Jericho Sims. The team moved the ball fluidly but their shots mostly missed the mark, as they made only 18 of their 45 first-half field goal attempts. The Hornets shot equally bad, and hence the Knicks managed to inch ahead by a few, fall back, inch ahead again, fall back again, etc. With under three minutes left in the half, the two teams had combined for 28 second-quarter points.
Here’s that oop I mentioned:
The Knicks entered intermission ahead, 46-43. Miller led Charlotte with 13 first-half points, while Brunson scored 13 for New York and Josh Hart grabbed nine rebounds.
New York had shot 40% from the field and 19% from deep; Charlotte had shot 40% and 25%. Ugly basketball, folks. Your first-half shot chart:
The Knicks came out of the locker room hellbent for leather. In a remarkable display of basketball bullying, they roasted the Hornets 44-24 in the third period. New York made six of eight three-point attempts in Q1, with longballs from DiVincenzo, Brunson, Deuce McBride, Quentin Grimes, and even Precious Achiuwa.
Charlotte had no answer for Jalen Brunson who scored 15 points in the frame. And their crowd loved it.
Deuce was hotter than a matchhead off the bench. McBride shot 3-of-6 from downtown, and check out the following sequence. Starting with dogged defense, he strips for the steal, then hurries back to swish the triple. Insert muscle emoji.
Miles McBride, what a sequence pic.twitter.com/5kyIZGMJaS— KnicksNation (@KnicksNation) January 30, 2024
In the fourth quarter, the Knicks extended their lead to 29 points, but then let go of the rope and allowed the Hornets to close the differential to 16 points. Jalen Brunson would not allow the Hornets to get any closer than that. He played 34 minutes tonight, shot 13-of-24, scored 32 points, and drove an 11-foot dagger into Charlotte’s heart with three minutes left. Coach Steve Clifford knew they were beaten, and the benches were emptied down the stretch.
Rookie Brandon Miller had set his career-high of 29 points against the Knicks back in November. He tied that tonight. Donte DiVincenzo didn’t shoot particularly well (5-of-15 from downtown), but his 28 points helped to make up for the absence of Julius Randle.
The Knicks hurry back to Madison Square Garden for a match with the Utah Jazz tomorrow. Safe travels, Knickerbockers.
Meanwhile in Westchester. . . .